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US investigates allegations of US equipment used in raids on Russia – POLITICO

KYIV – Washington is investigating reports that US military vehicles were used in raids against Russia, a White House official said Wednesday, warning Ukraine and pro-Ukrainian forces against using weapons. equipment to attack inside Russia.

Two pro-Ukrainian Russian paramilitary groups claimed responsibility for an incursion into Russia’s Belgorod region from Ukraine on Monday, during which they overran several small villages. Moscow said on Wednesday it defeated the groups, killing more than 70 people and destroying US-made military vehicles.

U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday the White House was “reviewing this information that U.S. equipment and vehicles may have been involved,” hinting at frustration in Washington. .

“We’ve been very clear: We don’t support the use of US-made equipment for attacks inside Russia…we’ve been clear about that with the Ukrainians,” Kirby said. “I will not enter into the private discussions we have with them. But I think we have only been consistent in our concerns in this regard.

Pentagon spokesman Brig. General Patrick Ryder said on Tuesday that the United States had neither authorized nor received Ukrainian requests to transfer equipment to paramilitary groups. He also expressed doubts about Russian reports and images appearing to show US-made vehicles.

“I don’t know if that’s true or not, in terms of the veracity of that imagery,” Ryder said. “You will remember [this week] there were fake images of alleged explosions at the Pentagon. So, you know, we just – all of us, both within the [defense department] and I’m sure in the…journalism community, we need to take a look at these things and make sure we get the facts before we make assumptions.

Ukraine has denied any involvement in the attack, saying the two groups – the Free Russian Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps – are made up only of Russian citizens who fight alongside Kiev, with the aim of creating a demilitarized zone on the border with Ukraine.

Andriy Cherniak, a representative of Ukrainian Military Intelligence, or HUR, told POLITICO that military aid provided by the United States and other Western allies is strictly limited to use by the Ukrainian military.

“Every bullet is tracked not only by us but also by our Western allies,” Cherniak said, adding that he did not know where the paramilitary groups got the US-made vehicles. Although he insisted the groups were acting alone, Cherniak said HUR had been in contact with them and had seen an increase in anti-Putin sentiment among Russians.

“Our main objective is to protect Ukraine. For us, these are Russian citizens who are against Putin and want to shake up his regime. So we are working with whoever we can to achieve our main goal,” Cherniak said. “More and more Russians understand that they do not want to die for [Putin] in war.”

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu described the groups as Ukrainian ‘nationalists’ in a televised meeting with Russian military officials and posted images of two badly damaged armored vehicles that resemble those supplied by the states United to Ukraine as part of military aid.

“During counter-terrorist operations, units of nationalist formations were pinned down and defeated by airstrikes, artillery fire and active actions. The remnants of the nationalists were thrown into the territory of Ukraine, where the fight continued until they were completely eliminated,” Shoigu said.

Both groups themselves, however, claimed that they were able to return to Ukraine with only two killed and 10 wounded from the Free Russian Legion, as well as two wounded from the Russian Volunteer Corps.

When asked how they got American-made vehicles, Denis Kapustin of the Russian Volunteer Corps, aka “White Rex” (the same name as his white nationalist clothing line), joked that its fighters could have bought them at any military store – mocking remarks by Vladimir Putin about how Russian-backed militants got weapons to fight Ukraine in Donbass in 2014.

Kapustin also claimed that his group had repossessed military vehicles stolen from Ukraine.

“The purpose of our peacekeeping operation in the Belgorod region was also to destroy the law enforcement agencies serving the Putin regime and to demonstrate to the Russian people that resistance is possible,” the Legion said on Tuesday. of free Russia.

The Russian Volunteer Corps also claimed that it wanted to show Russians that they were not protected by Putin.

Alexander Ward reported from and Lara Seligman contributed reporting from Washington.

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